Stray: Shockingly Fun Feline Adventure

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Wow. Yet another blog post. I’m on a roll. Hehe.

I’m still pretty unwell, tummy isn’t working quite right so I get a lot of tummy ache and sleep issues. But… it’s slowly improving… slowly slowly.

Anyway! While I’ve been unwell I’ve been playing a game called “Stray”…. It is brilliant! So here’s a blog post all about it.


I love the premise… you’re a cat, your playing with you cat friends when your day goes sideways and you’re suddenly tumbled into a whole new world. A fascinating story plays out around you as you find your way home.

Here’s some promotional artwork from the game, showing our feline lead against a background of a cyberpunk city.

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Stray has a simple premise but it builds into something pretty epic, fun and kinda silly.

The story is all about friends. The game starts by losing your cat friends, but you quickly make new friends. They happen to be robots…

You help them, they help you and eventually you get back home… You also free a city from tyranny along the way. As ya do.

Why Stray works.

Stray works for me in the most wonderful way. It’s accessible to me, the controls, the puzzles, the story and the pacing all work brilliantly to create an engaging and enjoyable 6 hours adventure.

Few barriers

So… accessible. What do I mean by that? In a nutshell, I didn’t trip over many barriers as i played the game…. I was rarely blocked, limited or prevented from doing things… but I still had a challenging experience with a satisfying sense of accomplishment.

Great games are a balance between barriers and progress. Finding the sweet spot between trivial and impossible. (To learn more about that lot, checkout my Game Accessibility Conference talk on difficulty.)

Stray gets the balance just right for the barriers i experience the most.

Leaping with joy.

Playing as a cat is joyful in the extreme… leaping and bounding our way from A to B with an uncanny smoothness.

The smoothness comes from the well considered controls… rather than relying on player timing and guesswork… the game provides on screen button prompts when something can be leapt on and traversed.

I love this style of control. It strikes a sweet balance between free form exploration and structured movement. Unlike most games, the timing challenges come from the environment, rather than mashing the jump button on the controller.

For example, I use my timing skill to sneak around a guard or hide myself behind a moving block… I don’t need my timing skills to leap onto a ledge as I can press the button whenever it appears. This is the opposite of something like Jedi Survivor where I need to time my jumps perfectly or fail miserably.

Barriers relating to bad controls often prevent me getting into a game.… not with Stray. I could get right into the game and easily progress forward with the core movement working beautifully

Flowing forward

Great games let me flow forward and progress smoothly… enough challenge to be engaging, but nothing which is totally impossible.

Stray’s progression is smooth and well paced. It’s a mix of linear sections punctuated by gorgeously detailed city districts acting as open world hubs.

Within the city sections there’s a mix of side tasks and main story objectives.

I found it hard in places… there’s peril… and it’s extremely easy for our little cat friend to die if he gets caught by the right monsters… but for the most part I could complete the action sections within 5-10 attempts.

I was able to use my skills at a pace which works for me and I wasn’t punished for going slow or taking multiple attempts.

Stray seems to be aware of fatigue and the need to rest, look and learn.

Throughout the stealthy sections there are little boxes to hide in. Hiding in a box gives me a chance to rest my hands while observing the world around me. The boxes initially seemed like a cat themed gimmick, but they soon proved to be an invaluable tool.

The ‘cat themed gimmick to gameplay mechanic’ approach is used for many interactive elements. Each introduced carefully and smoothly as the game unfurls.

The game plays well with consistent visual design and button prompts alerting me to interactive elements throughout the game. For example, all the interactive levers look the same and work the same way.

I rarely felt like I was trapped in a ‘puzzle’. I’d naturally find solutions by exploring the environment and doing things in a cat like way.

The pacing is brilliant. A superb mix of exploration, puzzles and action which keep the story moving fluidly forward.

Story I grok.

Stray exemplifies the principle of “show don’t tell’. A huge part of the story comes from the environments and the action.

The story isn’t super complex, but it has layers which are subtly revealed section by section.

It’s a story about making friends and shared goals. Almost every character in the game is collaborative and keen to help. There isn’t an obvious villain to overthrow… it’s the oppressive environment and situation which we must overcome.

I enjoyed the story and had a smooth experience understanding what to do and working out how to do it.

The only story related barrier I encountered was being blocked when the game made assumptions about my memory.

I played the game across two sessions and i simply couldn’t remember a lot of the details from one session to the next. I couldn’t remember what i was doing or where the key locations could be found.

I totally forgot I could ask my backpack based robot companion for hints and reminders. It’s ironic, as I have a real life plushie companion in my real like backpack… and I ask him things all the time…. I just forgot about my in game equivalent!

The game makes a bad assumption about my memory and introduced a barrier which almost blocked me from finishing the game.

I had to use an online guide to find out what to do and only discovered the inbuilt hints by accident.

There’s many ways to solve that barrier… one of the simplest would be to have the robot companion in my backpack offer a hint after loading a saved game.

Final thoughts

I really enjoyed my time with Stray. It’s reminds me a lot of Portal. A short, clever game which builds the most around a novel idea.

For £19 and only 6.5GB of storage it’s a bit of a bargain. I’m going to keep it around so I can go back and do all the side quests :)

Stray isn’t a super accessible game from a general accessibility perspective. It wouldn’t work for a low vision or blind player, and it lacks many of the features which makes modern games more inclusive.

However, it’s accessible to me. I found it easy to control and understand. I suspect most folks will be able to play it, though perhaps with an online guide, support or sighted assistance.

I vastly enjoyed my time as a cat! It’s an easy recommendation to anyone who hasn’t given it a go already!


Spaced Out & Smiling is about exploring the fun side of Autism, and trying to understand what it means to be Autistically Happy.

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